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SEXTREMISM

The use of women bodies as a political instrument | Martn Belln

Introduction.
Feminism, as an ideology; it has been linked in within history with different social movements and organizations that worked for transforming society; trying to get as many rights for women as they could. It is also known that nowadays the world is globalized and everything is interconnected. The force that social movements have right now; as an element of social reconstruction has an undeniable international effect. Good examples of this international effect are social movements like Occupy or Arab Spring that started in different places (Spain and Tunis) and achieved a world wild dimension; the Arab Spring affected to almost all the countries or North Africa and some in the Middle East and Occupy had big manifestations in developed countries as Greece, Portugal, Germany, France, United Kingdom and the United States. The latest feminist ideological movement is called by their own activist sextremist that means using the sexual connotation of their bodies as a political arm. The main movement that uses this kind of actions is called FEMEN; and it will be the main topic of research in this paper. The aim of this paper is to create a base from which political scientific will be able to continue to do a research about sextremist; going deeper in the ideology and the way of action of this movement. The question that is proposed in this assignment is quite basic and easily understandable; How is sextremist movement, and FEMEN in particular, affecting the International agenda? With international agenda we mean two different things, first and the most traditional definition of international agenda; the topics that the international community (formed by states and international organizations) has as main points of work; like nowadays could be the economic crisis, climate changes, immigration movements, terrorism Second, as international agenda are also understood the topics that media and society are taking care of nowadays even if the states and the international community are not paying attention to them. The hypothesis that the researcher has is that sextremist is shocking society and getting attention from media, getting inside of the main points of this part of the

international agenda; but not achieving the states and international organizations agendas.

Theory.
As the paper is talking about a really recent ideological movement, (FEMEN was founded in 2008 in Ukraine) we decide to use a modern international theory for explaining why this movement is working with this bases and postulates; for that we choose poststructuralism. Also; as complement for understanding better FEMEN postulates literature will be used that discusses the most recent feminist movements; the property of the body, how gender has been a tool of change in history and feminism in general. Poststructuralism bring a critical perspective to the study of world politics in two important respects. They are critical of the way that most states conduct their foreign policies and they are critical of how most international relations theories tell us to study what states do.1 The theory that gets the main and most of the critics from poststructuralism is realism; that defends that state is the main actor in the international relations; defending that the others actors in the arena are useless and their actions does not produce any changes in the international panorama. Poststructuralism talks about investigating how constructions of the world, and those people and places that inhabit it, make particular policies seem natural and therefore legitimate. With this point we can link the different reactions that different societies have to FEMENs actions. A good example of this is the case of the Tunisian FEMENs activist Amina. This Tunisian woman posted on Facebook some photos of herself topless, where, on her torso, appears the words Fuck your morals, one of the slogans of the organization. This action created a highly negative reaction in Tunisian society; where some of their leaders, like the head of the commission for the promotion of virtue and prevention of vice said that her act could bring about an epidemic. It could be contagious and give ideas to other women.2. The part of the Tunisian population that defends Aminas action is really small; even her parents have reported to place her in a psychiatric. But at the same time, on April 2013 more than 86.500 persons had signed an online petition calling the International society for her protection. How is it possible

that in a place of the world leaders are saying that she can bring an epidemic to the society and in others, thousands are asking for her protection? One of the main points of poststructuralism ideology is that the structures that we can find in societies are constituted through human actions. It can be said that poststructuralism aim is to produce new knowledge about world politics; this theory does not try only to explain how international politics works, but tries to go beyond this giving an alternative; trying to produce new knowledge about world politics. For this, the theory has the next four concepts: 1. Discourse; the study of those linguistic structures through which materiality is given meaning. 2. Deconstruction argues that language is a system of unstable dichotomies where one term is valued as superior. 3. Genealogy asks which political practices have formed the present and which alternative understandings and discourses have been marginalized and forgotten. 4. Intertextuality holds that we can see world politics as made up by texts. All texts refer to other texts, yet each is unique. Intertextuality calls attention to silences and taken-for-granted assumptions. FEMEN; as its leader Inna Shevchenko said, is just reconstructing feminism; they use all the previous literature from feminism for trying to create their own postulates and positions on different topics like prostitution, pornography, religion For this they change the way, the context and the form but not the content of the message that feminism is giving; they are fighting for women rights but in a new and different way. One of the main similarities between FEMEN argues and poststructuralism argues that both defend the idea that if situations are like them are; is because people allow this and also because people create this. Poststructuralism defends that if the international system is anarchic, it is because states and other actor reproduce this system, not because is given once and for all. Poststructuralism wants to take seriously what is excluded and marginalized by existing policies and theories, and it tells us to think critically of how we construct the world. This is the same work that FEMEN does in their field; women rights. FEMEN defends

that if women rights situation nowadays is that bad, it is because population allows patriarchal systems to work; and they include women and also feminists in these people that allows patriarchal system been working; because they are not fighting against the system, they are just playing with the systems rules for trying to change the system; but not trying to change the rules. But we can find in FEMEN arguments also linked with traditional ideologies like classical liberalism. They use the definition of the liberal theory of self-ownership because if we do not have a property in our own bodies, we cannot have any other entitlements.3 FEMEN creates a contradiction in theory; as we can see in literature like the book New Femininities, feminism nowadays is seen as something old; because of nowadays feminism positions on different topics; focused in topics really theoretical that does not really affect to the majority of the western population. At the same time this can happen because of the high influence that post-colonialism feminism has in nowadays feminism, trying to focus on 3rd world womens problems in favor of white middle-class womens problems.4 But FEMEN is nowadays an example of feminism that is getting the attention of media and society. Just in the last year they have appeared in most of the newspapers of Europe as news because of some of their actions but also prestigious publications like The Economist, International Herald Tribune and prestigious television channels like FRANCE24, Al Jazeera, or CNN; have published articles, documentaries about the movement or interviews with some of their leaders, mostly with Inna Shevchenko, (that, even though she is not considered the principal leader of the organization, she is the one that most public apparitions in media has. So even mainstream feminism is practically out of media; FEMEN is getting lots of attention. This topic has a big importance because, as some studies reflects, in recent years tween girl in anglo-american societies have emerged from relative obscurity to become the focus of public and academic scrutiny. In a moment where women are appearing linked with sexual concepts in media; FEMEN is creating another image about women; that use their bodies for defending their ideas and positions about different situations.

It seems interesting for the paper to analyze the contemporary theoretical feminism; called the third-wave. Third-wave feminism has sought to respond to a wide range of economic, political and cultural features of contemporary western society which have affected the ways in which gendered subjectivities are articulated and enacted. Broadly speaking key factors include the rise of global capitalism, the expansion of information technologies, crises of environmental degradation and multiple models of sexuality.5 All this changes in nowadays society makes third-wave feminists think that the site for political struggle has been affected in the shift as the enemy has been increasingly decentralized and patriarchy itself dismantled as a primary object of critique. That means that for third-wave feminists nowadays society has biggest and more important problems than patriarchy. FEMEN gives to feminist conversation a totally different point of view in this topic; for FEMEN all the problems that for third-wave feminists are bigger than patriarchy; are created by patriarchy, which makes patriarchy the main problem for women. For example, when third-wave feminists explain that women get less money for the same work as men, they explain this phenomenon because of global capitalism that creates the fact that women, as they get pregnant, take more care about the babies and the family in general; will be less productive than men so they will have this worst position in labor market. FEMEN feminists, for the same topic; explains that this is because men has a superior position in companies, governments and society in general; and as they are the ones that have the power, they create a patriarchal society where men will still being the ones that have the power, giving women less opportunities. This difference is showed in the article published by The Economist where it is written one of the most famous phrases of Inna Shevchenko; we have one enemy as women all over the world, patriarchy.

Research.
We have to be quite provocative; because classical feminism, Im sorry, but it does not work anymore Inna Shevchenko said these words in a conference where FEMEN exposed its ideology and ways of acts; explaining sextremist. What is sextremist? FEMEN definition of sextremist is mix nudity and intelligence; is use womens naked bodies as a political instrument, a special instrument of womens fight. Why using this new method? The story of FEMEN starts in Ukraine 2008; a group of college students (all of them women), started to protest because of having a worse position in the university than their male classmates. In these firsts manifestations they wore dresses and Ukrainian media did not paid attention to them. After these firsts protests; they started to complain against women situation in Ukraine, a more open field for trying to get the attention of the media and the society. As the conventional way did not work neither, they try it wearing sexy clothes, and doing performance in the street representing exaggerated situations like students being prostitutes with their teachers; but they did not take the attention of media either. It was in August the 24th of 2009; Ukrainian Independence Day, when FEMEN activists decided start to use top-less as way of protests; and it worked, national and international media focus its attention in them. With these actions, as they explained, they try to get the attention from people all over the world in women problems; and they found in sextremist the best way to get media and social attention. Inna Shevchenko in a conference where she was participating in the prestigious French university SciencePO Paris said: Womens naked body was always related with patriarchy; now we try to give it back to their legitimate owner, the women. Now we can take off our t-shirts when we want and when we decide it; not when other wants or decide it.6. One of the main points of sextremist is this; give the propriety of womens body to women. But this idea is not completely new. Simone de Beauvoir, feminism writer and philosopher from the XXth century, said: What marks the specificity of womans situation is that while she, like any other human being, is an autonomous freedom, she

discovers and chooses herself in a world where men force to assume herself as the other, they claim to fix her as an object. But although the many ways in which womens bodies had been made objects were originally an important target for feminism.7 Sextremist becomes central point of FEMEN ideology because of two reasons; the first one, to take back womens bodies to women, and the second one, use bodies as a political instrument to get attention of the political institutions and the media, using it for changing the world. And, is this working? Without doing research the easy answer is say no. Mostly all the situations that they report and fight against are still there. Governments from different countries of East Europe, where FEMEN was born and where lots of their demands are focused; does not take care and do not pay attention to this movement. But why does this happen? The official message is that for them they are minorities that their vandalic actions offend the moral of millions of persons.8 But, Inna Shevchenko, asked in an interview for the news channel FRANCE24, about Putins reaction after being attacked in the Hamburg Fare Trade Forum, where he was attacked by FEMEN activists. Putin said to the media that everything happened so fast that he did not even realize if they were blond and beautiful. Inna told to the journalist that only thirty minutes after that action, Russian KGB demanded to open criminal reports to the activists. And they are getting their objective winning media attention; and everyday more not because of their actions, because of the organization by itself. So, if magazines like DeMorgen Magazine, The Sunday Times Magazine, Technikart, channels like FRANCE24, Al Jazeera, CNN, BBC News or Euronews; prestigious publications like International Herald Tribune (international edition of The New York Times), or The Economist; and important newspapers like USA Today, The Washington Post or The Wall Street Journal are giving attention to the organization, must be because at least the organization is one of the new and relevant actor in the international panorama. Also there are lots of different publications about the collective; most of them by political scientific that try to give their point of view in this topic. Some of them explain the causes that helped to create FEMEN. As it was said previously in this paper; FEMEN was born in Ukraine by three girls; Anna Hutsol, nowadays leader of FEMEN in Ukraine; can be consider the less extremist, she was the one that had the idea after hearing lots of sad stories about girls from her around that were forced to get married; or

that suffered abuses and they never reported to the authorities because Ukrainian women mostly have low education and they do not even know their rights. She decided to create this organization after attending women leadership seminars in the USA where she understood that if women want to be heard they have to take the initiative for bringing it about.9 Is also really influential that in 2004, Ukraines Orange Revolution mobilized masses of young people in collective response to election fraud. Even after the Orange Revolution signaling that consolidated democracy was at hand, but in early 2010 it was clear that the revolutionary euphoria had dissipated; and only some of this people still fighting for different topics. FEMEN was not created because of Ukrainian Orange Revolution; but the fact of this democratic failure is to make this women problem survive or even become bigger; that made Anna, Inna and Oleksandra create the organization. And in 2010, when revolutionary euphoria had dissipated and Yanukovych was elected as new president of Ukraine FEMEN was there to report his politics and actions. We realize one day that what was born in Ukraine was something that was not only Ukrainian, was an international idea. Inna Shevchenko said this words for explaining that even FEMEN started as an organization for fighting in favor of Ukrainian womens rights; when they got the attention of international media and the support of lots of women all over the world; they totally understood that the patriarchal situation that their country were suffering wasnt unique; it is a global problem; that needs a global response; and FEMEN tries with its actions to create this response. But is not because of that when FEMEN becomes an international actor. This idea happens when, the 17th of August of 2012, three activists from the Russian feminist group Pussy Riot, are sent to prison because an action inside of a cathedral in Moscow (where they were signing a profane song). In that moment, Inna Shevchenko, as a protest in solidarity with them, cut down a crucifix in Kiev. After that, Inna Shevchenko decided to leave the country because her life was in danger and she moved to Paris; with the idea of open an international training center to teach women that wants to participate with FEMEN all over the world how to be prepared for the sextremist actions.

They explain that the answer that sextremists try to give is radical and aggressive, but not violent. Why radical and aggressive? Because patriarchal society treats women aggressive and with violence, so women answer must be in the same way. They defend that the institutional violence against women already had an answer by the classical feminism, but the general violence that society commits had not answer before sextremist appears. This aggressiveness is not only present in their actions; where as they said, they never use violence against the persons that they attack (all their actions are just women naked with messages written in their bodies and shouting slogans; and sometimes they committed vandalic actions like burn a flag or through water in the Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels); is also present in the vocabulary that the activists use for describing how they see FEMENs work; we are here to fight, is a struggle, is a war, against patriarchy said Eloise Bouton, one of the French FEMENs soldiers. They use the word, soldiers for call the girls that participates in FEMENs actions; they consider themselves soldiers against the patriarchy One of the main accusations that FEMEN activists do against classical feminism is that they forget about two topics that for them are totally central: the body and the action. The body becomes central in sextremist ideology because they see how in society, naked women is accepted only with the connotations that men want to; naked and sexy women are in advertisements, fashion shows, pornography But when they show women naked bodies shouting for their rights people gets angry and thinks that they lose all the reason that their arguments can have because of being naked. One of the FEMEN slogans is focus on this topic, Nudity is my freedom, they shout in lots of their actions. What does that mean? That they, as women, do not care about being naked if they are the ones that decide to be naked. Also Inna Shevchenko explains in a conference other of the reasons that makes use women body in their actions, not everybody is ready to talk to women, not everybody is ready to listen to them, not everybody is ready to discuss our problems; but everybody wants to look at us; so lets allow them to look at us when we want that they look at us, when we want to be heard. And at the same time she attaches Do you think that I like to be naked? No, I dont, making clear that is not because they like, is because is the only way that they have.

Just as a conclusion, leaving open the discussion for future researches about the topic; said that it will be really interesting doing more comparative research between sextremist and previews forms of feminism. In this paper it was just focus with the last feminist movements, trying to see the difference between the most recent theoretical arguments and the sextremist postulates. As it is described previously, sextremist try to get into the action, and they actually do it quite loud getting the attention from the media and the society; giving the answer that the society try to get to some problems and classical feminism does not give; but this answer is not accepted by the whole society all over the world. Cases like the one in Tunisia, or the ones in Ukraine; where mostly all the population thinks that they are not serious and they do not take care about real problems, doing just vandalic actions that only offends the rest of the population. Anna Hutsol, one of the founders of FEMEN explains in an interview that her family has to support that all the little village where she comes from, tell them that what her daughter does is not logical, without any reason and without any result. But in the rest of the world; FEMEN is getting more and more support. Every action that they do, more media and social attention that they get. People are getting involved in their ideas, like for example in France where they are doing a big work right now defending homosexual marriage, responding to the far right radical groups that do actions and manifestation against homosexual marriage. The question is, where is going to be FEMEN in five years? Will they get governments and international organizations attention? Will their demands be heard at the political level? Thats something that only the time can say.
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. Hansen, Lene in Baylis, John; Smith, Steve & Owens Patricia. The Globalization of World Politics. Oxford University Press 2011 Cosslett, Rhiannon Lucy. New Statesman 2013 Dickeson, Donna. Property in the body: Feminist perspective. Cambridge University Press 2007 Press, Andrea L; in Gill, Rosalin & Schraff, Christina. New Femininities; postfeminism, neoliberalism and subjectivity. Palgrave Macmillan 2011. Budgeon, Shelley; in Gill, Rosalin & Schraff, Christina. New Femininities; postfeminism, neoliberalism and subjectivity. Palgrave Macmillan 2011. Part of the conference where Inna Shevchenko says the sentence
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Sentence by Simone de Beauvoir, find it in: Dickeson, Donna. Property in the body: Feminist perspective. Cambridge University Press 2007 Interview for FRANCE24 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_yBPTbPOPs) Rubchak, Marian. Seeing pink: Searching for gender justice through opposition in Ukraine. European Journal of Womens Studies. SAGE 2012